The Phoenix Vietnamese dining scene offers most everything—sometimes all in one place. From springs rolls and papaya salad, to pho and bun (vermicelli noodles served cold), to banh mi and broken rice, there’s a lot to take in. While it may be impossible to wrap your head around the breadth of what Vietnamese cuisine offers, with these Phoenix spots, you’ll have everything you need and didn’t know you wanted.
Out of the many Vietnamese restaurants in the Valley, Pho Thanh is a Phoenix institution. Open every day except Tuesday (their day off), the pho house, which resembles a cafeteria in its capacity, fills its dozens of tables with hungry, hungry people. Attempt to get to the bottom of a massive bowl of pho or, better yet, their bun, Vietnamese vermicelli-style noodle bowls, which are worth obsessing over and command an obsessive appetite, too.
1702 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix
Just a stone’s throw from Pho Thanh is another Vietnamese staple. Family-owned and operated, Da Vang has been serving authentic Vietnamese fare from its hole-in-the-wall home for decades. With more than 80 items on the menu, it’s not hard to find something to please your palette — for a steal. Budget-friendly bowls hover at around $6, while a classic banh mi goes for less than $4. For those interested in a team effort, family meals top out at less than $9 per person.
4538 N. 19th Ave., Phoenix
Banh Mi Bistro
Banh mi is having a moment. The ubiquitous Vietnamese sandwich is on the menu everywhere, from trendy farm-to-table restaurants, to cool independent sandwich shops. For the real deal, however, drive up Interstate 17 to an industrial area of north Phoenix, where Banh Mi Bistro serves sandwiches stuffed to a near-busting capacity. Try the classic banh mi, made simply with cold-cut ham and paté and accouterments of jalapeno, cucumber, pickled carrot, daikon radish and cilantro. Or have the grilled pork, which comes warm to match the warm baguette it’s so lovingly wrapped in.
2340 W. Bell Road, Phoenix
Also known as 43rd Express, this west Phoenix restaurant does much of the traditional Vietnamese fare to start, but come the end of the meal, dessert embraces Vietnam’s French influence: macaron ice-cream sandwiches (yes, you read that right) of the Asian-flavor set. Sandwiches range from Thai tea, cookies and cream, mango or strawberry ice cream between bright-purple taro shells or bright-green pandan (from a green plant that that’s flavor resembles vanilla) shells. The slightly crisp outer layer of the pastry, in addition to its chewy interior, are a clear upgrade from any crumbly cookie of the store-bought variety.
2844 N. 43rd Ave., Phoenix
If you’re in north Phoenix, be on the lookout for Viet Kitchen, a quick, casual, no-frills restaurant where the pho — a favorite among Valley chefs including Stephen Jones of The Larder + The Delta (now closed) — is a definite must. While there are veggie and seafood options, beef is king, with such options as steak, meatballs and braised brisket. For the ultimate bowl, have the house special beef noodle soup made with rare steak, tendon, tripe and meatballs. Sprouts, basil, lime, jalapeno, cilantro and onion round out the depth of savory flavors.
20235 N. Cave Creek Road, Phoenix
Tea Light Café
Fast-casual meets authentic Vietnamese cuisine at Tea Light Café in north Phoenix. Walk up to the counter to order your meal, then take a seat and enjoy the short wait with one of their signature drinks: organic Japanese matcha green tea, Thai tea, or Vietnamese coffee. The small, yet concise menu offers just the right number of selections, from apps and pho, to salads, bun, and steamed rice plates. For something completely refreshing, try the shrimp pho, made with a light broth, rice noodles and fresh shrimp.
7000 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix
Proving life comes full circle, Rice Paper has had an interesting journey in the Phoenix dining scene. The original location was in a renovated bungalow in the Coronado neighborhood. It then opened in the Hotel San Carlos in downtown, only to close a year later. The latest iteration is back in the Coronado district, where, we hope, it’s there to stay. In addition to salads, pho, banh mi, and hearty entrees, Rice Paper offers a “fresh spring roll bar” featuring more than 20 spring rolls filled with everything from pork, chicken and filet mignon, to shrimp, fish and vegetables.
2241 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
Showing his love for his native home of Vietnam and his adopted home of America, owner Phat Pham Tan named his restaurant Pho A.V. (the initials stand for America and Vietnam). Tucked in a north Phoenix strip mall, the small, unassuming restaurant offers a few cozy booths and tables in a neatly decorated dining room. But there’s nothing small about the menu, which offers a vast array of selections, from pho and bun, to porridge, noodles, and beef dishes served with fragrant jasmine rice.
3202 E. Greenway Road, Phoenix
Formerly Maxim Restaurant, this little eatery in a central Phoenix strip mall serves up solid Vietnamese favorites along with affordable prices and friendly service. With more than 100 items on the menu, the house specialty is pho, available with beef slices or meatballs. Rice and egg noodles in a pork broth is also available. Other specialties include banh mi in a variety of fillings, stir-fry noodles, vermicelli noodles, and broken rice plates. And don’t miss the spring rolls; they’re a customer favorite.
3424 N. 19th Ave., Phoenix